Thursday, October 17, 2019

Guns, Beef, and Cigars: A Smoky Saturday

A few weeks ago I found myself with a rare Saturday of free time. Colleen was away for the weekend, there were no shooting matches to attend, no travel plans, and no household chores that couldn't be ignored.

After a quick cup of coffee in the morning, I headed down I-95 to the indoor range. Now that the summer weekend travel traffic is over the drive is quick, relatively speaking. I prefer to arrive right at opening time, to be finished before the range gets crowded. I spent about 45 minutes turning money into smoke and noise. I spent about half my time shooting at an IDPA target set at 12 or 15 yards, trying to get good groups of 3-4 shots as fast as I could reset the sights after each shot. I also spent some time working on accuracy with smaller targets. It was a fun and satisfying session, especially since my range time has been extremely limited the past few months.

Driving home, I realized I hadn't given the rest of the day much thought, being unaccustomed to such an empty schedule. As I contemplated the rest of the afternoon, my stomach made a suggestion to find food, and soon I was seated at a local "BBQ" restaurant. A platter of smoked brisket, smoke-flavored beans, and fried okra took care of my grumbling stomach.

After that tasty lunch, I decided to head over to the cigar lounge for a smoke and visit with the folks there. I chose an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial in a torpedo vitola for my afternoon enjoyment.


There are notes of rich, creamy chocolate and a bit of spiciness throughout. Cedar and nutty undertones add to the flavor profile. The full bodied cigar went quite well with a vanilla latte grabbed from the nearby over-priced coffee chain. After a couple hours of pleasurable smoke and conversation, I reluctantly took my leave of the shop and headed home. Still with plenty of time left for other serendipitous activities the day would bring.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Fall Tailgating: Beer, Cigars

With the advent of fall, our weekend activities often revolve around college football. Fall also means the store shelves are filled with one of my favorite styles, the malt-rich Oktoberfest lagers. Afternoon tailgating before a game provides the opportunity to combine good beer, good food, and a good smoke.

The tailgate preparations included picking up a six pack of Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest. The brewery collaborated with Germany’s Bitburger Brewery to create the 2019 version of the seasonal release.



Though not visible through the plastic cup, the beer is an attractive copper-red color with a creamy head. A rich malt aroma greats the nose. The flavor profile has toasty malt, caramel, and a sweet breadiness. There's a mild, but pleasant bitterness in the finish, along with thick mouthfeel. Overall, a very enjoyable drink.

I opted to pair the beer with the limited release Fratello D.M.V. in the District of Columbia vitola. The medium bodied cigar features a rich leather flavor and moderate spiciness. The two hour smoke offered the chance to open another refreshing bottle of the Oktoberfest.

Sadly, our team is not having a good season, and the game following the tailgate fun was most disappointing. However, as fans, we will look forward to the next tailgate, along with more enjoyable beer and cigar pairings.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hiatus

And suddenly it's September. Sorry friends, I realized that the last Musings were posted on July 31. I'm still here, but have taken a bit of a break from the blog. Not to fear, craft beer, whiskey, and cigars are still being enjoyed, frequently. I even managed to shoot a couple of IDPA matches in August. I just happen to be enjoying living life more than writing about it, for the time being anyway.

Life changes abound. Our son has graduated from college, and is working and living on his own. Colleen and I are enjoying the chance to live a bit more "on a whim." Sometimes that means an unplanned trip. Sometimes it just means more time spent doing nothing. And not thinking about writing while I'm doing it is a refreshing break.

This isn't a "blog closed" announcement. Consider it a hiatus.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Weekend Smokes and Other Small Pleasures

After starting the weekend with the excitement of an IDPA match, it was time to slow down and relax during the evening. A couple of drinks on the deck with Colleen, along with a good cigar made a fine finish to the day. 



The Old Fashioned was made with Four Roses Small Batch bourbon and the smoke was the CAO Mx2. The Mx2 is a full-bodied smoke producing strong notes of coffee and earth with spicy and sweet notes coming through as well. The pairing made for a flavorful and refreshing repast as we enjoyed the cooling evening air.

On Sunday, after a hearty breakfast of omelets and homemade cinnamon raisin bread, we headed to a nearby Civil War battlefield for a short hike. We hit this same trail regularly, it's a pleasant shaded walk in the woods and is a nice change from our daily "exercise" walks in the neighborhood.

After freshening up it was time to head over to one of our favorite Sunday afternoon haunts, 1781 Brewing, for some good beer, music and a cigar. The afternoon performer was "Hokie Joe" who plays an entertaining mix of Blues, Rock, and Country. It was a fun mix of music that could be enjoyed while carrying on a conversation. My beer selection for this afternoon was Sea Monkey IPA. It doesn't seem to me that 1781 offers many IPA style beers, so I was looking forward to seeing what they did with this one.

The beer is easy drinking and quite flavorful. Rich, juicy citrus notes of pineapple and mango treated the nose and the palate. The finish is clean and refreshing with very little bitterness. I believe the ABV was listed around 6.5%



The chosen smoke was Fratello D.M.V. This limited production cigar was released last fall in four vitolas designated as Delaware, Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland. I picked up some of each during a release party at my local cigar shop in December. The cigar seems to have sold out at most places fairly quickly. I selected a "District of Columbia" Toro for this pairing. The cigars are medium plus bodied with flavors of coffee and spice. The finish is creamy and lingers for some time. The beer and the smoke meshed quite well. I quickly needed a refill on my beer as I enjoyed the 90 minute smoke.

This would have been the last of my supply of the D.M.V. in this vitola. Fortunately, I spotted a few more recently during a trip, and bought the last of the stock at the shop. I'm looking forward to enjoying them in the future. Maybe with an IPA again.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Saturday Morning IDPA

After last weekend's match cancellation, I was looking forward to getting my "fix" this Saturday with friends at the monthly Cavalier IDPA match. While a bit warmer than the unseasonably coolness of the prior few days, Saturday morning was still quite pleasant. We finished shooting before the afternoon heat set in. The match, as usual, ran quickly and offered some interesting twists along the way. A few photos from the morning are uploaded here for those of you who wish to follow along.

The first stage was shot in two strings. The first string had us starting facing the side of the bay, and had just three paper targets requiring three hits each. The first close target require shooting from retention, one-handed with our shooting elbow held against our side. The second target required turning to the other side to engage, before returning to finish on the final target placed behind the first.

The second string consisted of three falling steal targets placed strategically behind barrels and spread across the bay. The first steel was right in front of the shooter at the start, the other two became visible by moving to each side of the bay. The first target was also visible from the same place we could see the second. Surprisingly, most shooters did not choose to shoot from just two positions, rather taking the longer route of setting up at three positions. I saw that shorter route, but I actually started wondering if I was missing some obvious reason not to do so. I did choose the shorter route and this was also my best stage of the day.

Next up was a version of a stage we shot at the Virginia State Match in June. The course was set up by one of the guys who accompanied us on that trip. Nine threat targets, and a few non-threats were placed behind walls over a spread out course of fire. The "gotcha" spot on this stage was the two very close targets on either side of the wall at the starting point. There was another target placed about 20 yards downrange, that appears first in priority, before the very close target. At the state match I saw many shooters get lured into shooting out of order. No one on our squad Saturday got caught by that. The far target is also visible to be shot at the end of the course if makeup shots are needed. I did and ended up making two my -1 make up shots for two more -1 hits. I earned some well-deserved ribbing from my squad mates for that.



The next course of fire started with just six rounds in the gun. At the start we engaged a near target with all six rounds, before reloading to finish the stage. The challenge on this was the non-threat that was behind the initial target. Shoot-throughs hits on the non-threat are penalized, so one had to be careful of the engagement angle. It was a fun quick stage though.



Stage four offered a challenge that was a bit out of the ordinary. Our gun was loaded at the start, but all of the magazines for reloading were placed in a bag. Instead of stowing the mags we had to carry the bag with us, and reload from the bag. There were barrels at each shooting position where we could place the bag if we chose. Other options were to shoot one-handed, or shoot with the weighted bag still in our hands. We also had the choice of two start positions, on opposite sides of the course. Each starting option faced an array of three targets, but each array presented a different arrangement of exposed targets, non-threats, and hard cover. The selected starting array would be shot from a close distance, while the other would be shot from a greater distance. I opted to start with the array that offered larger open target areas, but with a non-threat in the center, and shot strong-hand only. At subsequent positions I set the bag on a barrel, shot two-handed while reloading from the bag. After these initial arrays, we ran down a hallway to engage four falling steel targets from either side of a wall. Although the steel seemed to jump out of the way of my bullets, this was a fun, but challenging scenario. Old habits of reaching to the belt for reloads is hard to break. Although the course of fire was more challenging to describe than to shoot.



The final stage gave us the "opportunity" to shoot from a somewhat uncomfortable position. Starting with the loaded gun and all magazines on a table set a few feet in front of the start position. Three targets were engaged through a low, long port in the wall. Shooting the targets required leaning, crouching, or kneeling. I knew I didn't want to take a knee and try to get up quickly to finish the stage. I sort of half-kneeled, without touching the ground. It wasn't a comfortable position but it was quicker to get out up from. The stage finished with two target arrays with both an open and a head-shot target each side.

As is typical, the match ran pretty quickly. The courses of fire were challenging, fun, and presented some unique shooting tasks for our enjoyment. I felt I shot pretty well, with no procedurals, no hits on non-threats, nor any misses. It was a good feeling to shoot a clean match. I did shoot a few too many points down on a couple stages, and could shoot a little faster overall, but I was quite happy to shoot as I did. I finished 20th of 39 overall and 7th of 18 in SSP division. Not quite back where I want to be, but certainly making progress. And now to start planning for next weekend's match.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

No Shooting Today. Alternative Plans Made.

The original plans for today included shooting the monthly IDPA match at Rivanna. I haven't been able to make it to that match since last October and was really looking forward to it. However, with the thermometer predicted to peak over 100° today, the organizers cancelled the match. I was disappointed, but it was probably a wise decision.

On the other hand, it gave me a rare Saturday morning to sit in my happy place on the screen porch enjoying my coffee. I will not be deterred! Grabbing the floor fan, I decided to enjoy an, also rare, morning smoke with my coffee.



At the time,  the Dark Skies app on my phone informed me it's 92° out, and feels like 103°.  I couldn't tell though, it was still surprisingly pleasant. (Relatively speaking.) I grabbed one of the Regina Cigars I pick up this spring. Regina Cigars 'Michael' is a medium bodied, earthy smoke. It paired will with the black, dark roast coffee.

I enjoyed the extra relaxation to start the weekend. A bonus with heat wave, is that none of my neighbors were running lawn mowers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Weekend: Beer, Cigars, & Friends

While there were sadly no shooting activities on my schedule last weekend, I was thankful for some fun times with friends and family, along with good beer and good cigars.

Our monthly "men's group" meeting was on Friday. Each month we meet at a local pub or brewery for beer, banter, and other conversation. This month we opted for an outdoor gathering at 1781 Brewing Company. A bunch of of the guys took advantage of the cigar-friendly location and enjoyed fine smokes with their beer. My selection for the evening was a Camacho Imperial Stout Barrel Aged which paired quite nicely with the 1781 Brewing L'automne Imperial Red Ale.

The fun of the evening left me thinking about the possibility of organizing another gathering, with the specific intent of including cigars. A future herf group perhaps.

Later in the weekend, Colleen and I got out for our irregular Sunday afternoon "date." We too opted to head over to 1781 Brewery. The scheduled events at the brewery included live music and food served by a Jamaican-themed food truck. We arrived a little before the music started and settled at a table in the shade of trees.

Heading over to the food truck, we ordered both curried chicken and jerk chicken dishes. The meals included cooked cabbage, rice and fried plantains. The 1781 Extra Special Better (ESB) helped offset some of the heat from the jerk chicken, and offered a nice pairing



Finishing the food, it was time for a smoke. For this outing I brought along a Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro. This is one of my "goto" cigars, at least currently. I try to keep some of the Robusto vitola on hand, but this time enjoyed a longer smoke in Toro. Naturally, another pint was called for.

After a few hours of July afternoon heat, we called it a day. Sitting inside the cool house later that evening had me day dreaming about the next outing, and the possibilities of other craft beer and handmade cigar pairings to be enjoyed in the future. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sanner's Lake IDPA Match

My Independence Day (Weekend) celebration included shooting the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake in Maryland. I'd only been to the club twice this year, once for a monthly match and once for the Maryland State IDPA match, so I was looking forward to getting back.

Saturday turned into a very hot and humid day. When I left my house early in the morning to meet my traveling companion, the temperature was already above 80° and climbing. However, this match runs quickly so the heat would be less of a factor. The match director also made concealment garments optional to help cope with the heat.

My first run started off well enough. The course of fire began with our loaded gun on a table, along with the magazines. Running to retrieve the weapon, we engaged a couple paper and two steel targets through a port. Next we found targets, and non-threats, on either side of the barrel wall. Any magazines needed for reloading were retrieved per the shooter's plan of attack.



In what was to be the theme of the day, I shot with too many points down, but still this was my best stage of the day.

Next up was a standards stage shot in two strings. Starting with 5 rounds in the gun, we shot 4 body and one head shot on a target, reloaded, and repeated on a second target. The second string required the same pattern on two different targets. I had a plan. The timer beeped. I no longer had a plan. I ended up shooting too many shots on one target, which cost me a PE and a miss.

Stage 3 was a short run with four shooting positions among the barrels. The final two targets were to be engaged from both sides of a barrel, the right side right hand only, and then with the left hand only around the left side. After the mental error of the previous stage, I made sure I had it ingrained in my head to shoot the last two targets with the proper grip. I did so, but still with too many points down.

Next up was a somewhat confusing stage with 18 targets spread in a maze-like arrangement of walls, some shot in the open, others from cover. Each target required just a single shot. Another planning failure had me running by a target without engaging, earning another penalty and miss.



Stage 5 tossed us another challenge. A symmetrical arrangement of targets was set on either side of a barrel stack. This time, the right side targets were to be shot left hand only, and the left side targets shot right hand only. My still lagging one-hand shooting skills left me too many points down, but at least no penalties!

Finally we arrived at the last stage. While I was enjoying shooting, I was tired and off my game. We were seated at a table facing two targets and a non-threat. Picking the gun up off the table, the two engaged the targets while seated. Then we dropped to kneeling on the side of the table and shot some paper and steel set at 90 degrees to the first array. Fun and fast. Maybe too fast. I managed to hit two non-threats.

As excited and well prepared as I felt going into the day, this would not be my best match. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the shooting challenges and the friendly squad of shooters. There is hardly a better way to spend a summer morning. Some days are just better than others. If it wasn't fun, even on off days, I'd stop doing it.

We were done shooting all six stages in just two hours. That left plenty of time for adult beverage shopping and a leisurely lunch on the drive back to Virginia. A shower and a drink at home afterwards cured any hurt to my pride left from the match. Now on to the next time …